Bob Schwartz

Month: May, 2014

VA Health Crisis: Listen to IAVA

VA IG Report

We should listen to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America about this VA health system crisis.

As the name implies, IAVA represents the latest generation of American war veterans. They are in some ways the most attuned to the current realities and sensibilities of veterans’ issues in 2014. Not because they have been around the longest, but because they are native to the way things work, or don’t, here in the early 21st century in America.

Those realities regarding the health care crisis in the VA are shocking to some, but come as no surprise to those who have watched it happening, including Congress (both parties) and the President.

Is it fixable? What won’t fix it is political posturing, handwringing, or even the delayed but imminent departure of VA Secretary Shinseki.

What will fix it? Good policy well executed, without excuses or cover up. The IAVA can help with that.

In the wake of yesterday’s Inspector General Report about the Phoenix VA health system, IAVA CEO and Founder Paul Rieckhoff said:

The new IG report on the Phoenix VA is damning and outrageous. It also reveals the need for a criminal investigation. Each day we learn how awful things are in Phoenix and across the country. The VA’s problems are broad and deep – and President Obama and his team haven’t demonstrated they can fix it. As one of only two combat veterans, Senator John McCain’s call for Secretary Shinseki’s resignation is particularly impactful…

Today’s report makes it painfully clear that the VA does not always have our veterans’ backs. Even before this report came out, IAVA members were losing confidence in Secretary Shinseki and President Obama. At Memorial Day events across the nation, our members voiced outrage, anger, and impatience at the growing VA scandal. This new report only increases the belief that the promise to veterans has been broken. We are sharing this report now with our members and seeking their reaction. In the coming days, we will share the voices of our members with the President, VA leaders and those in Congress.

In the IAVA 2014 Policy Agenda, the VA health system was just one of a number of initiatives offered for consideration. On that score, IAVA recommends this (excerpted):

I. Establish a Presidential Commission to end the VA claims backlog.

II. Transform the Veterans’ Benefits Administration’s (VBA) adversarial culture…

III. Reform VA’s work credit and productivity evaluation system for claims processor….

IV. Outline the VA’s responsibility about the requirements to substantiate a claim….

V. Adopt the “treating physician rule” for medical evaluations for compensation and pension…

VI. Require appeals form to be sent along with the Notice of Decision letters in order to expedite the appeals process.

VII. Evaluate the Segmented Lanes work initiative to continually assess whether it is meeting the goals of fast tracking…

VIII. Report the intake of new compensation and pension claims on the Monday Morning Workload Report.

IX. Report separated statistics on the intake and processing of supplemental and original claims in the Monday Morning Workload Report…

XIII. Continue to engage veteran stakeholders in updating the VA Schedule for Rating Disabilities (VASRD).

XIV. Require the VA to accept a PTSD diagnosis provided from a qualified private medical provider.

X. Establish a model to accurately project the claims workload and the resource and staffing requirements needed to meet the demand.

XI. Make all disability benefits questionnaires available to private medical providers.

XII. Simplify notification letters to provide easily digestible, specific and clear information about the reasons for rating decisions.

XV. Allow the VA to incentivize private medical providers to furnish medical health records to the VA for processing.

XVI. Clarify and report accuracy ratings for each regional VA….

This is an agenda, and if the President and the good people of Congress want to adjust or add, that is their prerogative and duty. But you have to start somewhere, with something on the table, and this is a good place for that. If these warriors are smart enough and capable enough and honorable enough to fight our wars, they are surely able to suggest the smart, honorable, and capable ways of treating them when those wars are over.

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Building the Perfect 2016 Candidate

Frankenstein

A new report from the Pew Research Center doesn’t exactly tell us how to choose or build the most successful Presidential candidate for 2016. But the survey asking adults for their views of various Presidential traits offers some guidelines on who might be the best choices.

Views of Presidential Traits

Military service increases the likelihood of support more than any other factor. Being an atheist or never having held office before? Not so good. In between, take your pick. Being in your 70s is viewed as positive by just 6%, as negative by 36%. In fact, aside from atheism or inexperience, age is most likely to lose support. Interestingly, in 2008 when John McCain was running, Democrats overwhelmingly viewed age as a negative trait. They still don’t completely like candidates in their 70s, with 44% less likely to support, but something about the current possibilities seems to have softened that position (a favorite candidate who will be approaching 70, perhaps?).

If you look at the biggest differential between more and less likely to support, it appears that this is what Americans might be looking for:

Military veteran
Governor
Held office, but not Washington experience
Not in their 70s
Not gay or lesbian
No extramarital affair
Believes in God

How does your current favorite, if you’ve got one, fit that profile?

Man Arrested after Attempting Sex with ATM and Picnic Table

ATM

This is a test. It is an actual news story about a man who tried to have sex with an ATM and a picnic table.

Place and name have been deleted, and no link to the story is provided. There is more than enough embarrassment already. You can no doubt find the story if you are so moved.

This is a test not unlike an inkblot test. Listen to the police officer’s report. Then listen to your own thoughts. What are you thinking when you hear this? Are you laughing? Saddened? Disgusted? Confused? All that and more? What stories are you telling yourself? You might find that just as interesting as the original story.

A man was arrested Friday night and charged with public intoxication.

The police officer said, “He entered the bar and walked to the ATM. Once at the ATM, he pulled down his pants and underwear exposing his genitals, and then attempted to have sexual intercourse with the ATM…Once outside he again exposed himself and engaged in sexual intercourse with the wooden picnic table.”

Aunt Rose

Rose

My Aunt Rose has died.

Aunts and uncles are a unique category. In most cases, but not all, they are not quite as close as parents, but in other ways more fun, interesting, exciting, understanding, and comforting.

My uncle Herbie died too soon, many years ago. That was long before blogs or any of my family chronicles. Maybe this will prompt me to finally get around to his stories, which are worthy of a novel, but for now, this is Rose’s moment.

My family was large above my parents’ generation. They grew up with a big circle of aunts and uncles and seemingly dozens of cousins. But my parents themselves had only one sibling apiece, and on top of that, my father was estranged from his brother. So I really had only one aunt and uncle. But given how special they were, that was enough.

Special, and beautiful. That would be my aunt. Herbie was beautiful inside, my Mom’s deservedly adored baby brother, but I’m not sure how he would have done in a beauty contest. Rose was maybe the first stunningly gorgeous woman I had ever been close to (not that my Mom was shabby, of course). Her parents were Mexican, gracious and sweet, and her mother was just as striking. That heritage would be the source of its own tsuris (Yiddish for “trouble”), as my grandparents refused to accept her into the family for years—even though the couple lived blocks away.

There is no paradise on earth. A nephew has a different and less tense or intense experience of an aunt than her children do, just a grandparents look more ideal to grandchildren than to the parents in the middle. When I grew up, Rose looked and acted like an angel to me. An angel she was, and still is.

Honeywell Kitchen Computer and the Delights of Old Tech

Kitchen Computer - Menu Selection

Some people love old cars. Others of us delight in old digital tech.

We are not alone. The latest episode of Mad Men on AMC includes the installation of a computer at the agency. And the new AMC series Halt and Catch Fire is (coincidentally?) about the early days of personal computing. (Halt and Catch Fire is a real/apocryphal/funny code instruction that might send a computer into an endless loop, resulting in its ultimately stopping or bursting into flames.)

This is a page from the Neiman-Marcus Christmas 1969 catalog. The impeccably dressed N-M housewife is standing next to what appears to be an unusual table, but is actually the Honeywell Kitchen computer, which can be purchased for $10,000. (The apron will cost you another $28.) “If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute.” Indeed.

Kitchen Computer

Here is something completely different from the era, prophetic rather than silly. It is Isaac Asimov, a science fiction great, advertising Radio Shack’s TRS-80.

Asimov - TRS-80

Note that in the spirit of what goes around comes around, this is a pocket computer almost exactly the size of a smartphone—or is a smartphone a pocket computer exactly the size of a TRS-80? Either way, Neiman-Marcus and Honeywell were clueless, but Asimov and Radio Shack were not.

That would be a pretty good close for this post. Except that the following ad is irresistible, telling us something else about the early days of computing.

TSP Plotter

Just as cars were, and to some extent still are, sold by using sex, sometimes so were computers. This is an ad for a plotter, possibly the least sexy of all peripherals. The copy is mostly bone-dry and technical. But then there’s the trio of the model with her dress open to her navel, the headline “New, Fast, and Efficient!”, and the lead “The TSP-212 Plotting System is a real swinger.” $3,300 COMPLETE. Well, almost complete, as the model is presumably not included. But you know, that cool plotter just might attract one.

May Day, Mayday!

May Day

May 1 is a very busy day.

It has been for ages a celebration of spring, with traditions including dancing around the Maypole.

It is International Workers’ Day, a labor holiday around the world. The date was set to commemorate the tragic Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886.

In 1921, to neutralize the socialist/communist aspects, in America it became known as Loyalty Day (originally Americanization Day). Congress and President Eisenhower officially affirmed this in 1959 at the height of the Cold War.

In 1958 President Eisenhower declared May 1 to also be Law Day.

What’s sometimes overlooked is the coincidental similarity to the international radio distress call: Mayday! Mayday! This was reportedly first used in the 1920s by pilots in France. One story has it that it comes from the French “venez m’aidez” (come help me).

Is it just a coincidence? If you are a worker, or a lawyer, or someone who feels put upon by law or lawyers, or just about anybody feeling distressed on May 1, 2014, please feel free to say it loud. Though dancing helps too.